Airbag Industries

Shortbus.

Last March I was encouraged by a few friends and peers to host a panel at SXSW to discuss the topic of writing better (not, absolutely not, to be confused with blogging better, I’ll leave such discussions to the Google ad/rank whores). For a person who cheated on vocabulary tests in Mrs. Chesburo’s (AKA The Great Satan to David Booth and I) senior English class, this is dark humor at it’s best.

Perhaps it’s the circles I run in but I find the lack of discourse on the subject of writing better a bit troublesome. We, my friends, peers, and I, talk at length about all facets of design and we tinker with the latest in Internet enabled technologies but when it comes to our command of the English language, that subject rarely comes to the forefront and is normally delegated to milestones titled “write content”.

Content is supposed to be king in the royal order of what makes or breaks online endeavors (for those who care executive management is the queen while design and development are the bratty step children who never, ever, get along and are always being talked about in the tabloids) but we don’t really talk about it.

It is strange to me that in the web design/development world countless hours are spent discussing the wrappers and distribution mechanisms for content but very little time is spent on how to improve the content itself. I think it has become a traditional assumption that crafting good content is best left to the capable hands of our clients or nearly unemployed English majors who didn’t go on to attend law school. Yet, anyone who has ever crafted websites over the years should know better — hell, I should know better — most clients look to their designers and developers for help. From editing to writing the copy from scratch, rare is the project that does not require our involvement with words.

After looking over the last months roster of panel proposals¹ for next year’s interactive festival in Austin, I see a lot of topics that are more of the same (albeit some with a fresh focus and road-tested panelists here and there) but nothing on writing or creating better word architecture.

What gives?

So in response to the black hole of prose and encouragement from said friends, I have tentatively confirmed a list of panelists who write for different reasons, styles and audiences on the web. We’ll take forty-five minutes to talk about what makes for good writing, what each person does to keep fit with verbs and vowels, and what the future might hold for the written word in a world that is being inundated with podcasts and video. The panel is called “Writing, Better” and you can find it under the Content category. I’d appreciate your up or down vote.

In the meantime lets talk about how to mold this future discussion into SXSW gold.

¹
I’m a tad disappointed that SXSW panel submission process has been left to crowdsourcing (unless I completely missed something). Leaving it up to the masses to choose a recording artist is a brilliant business scheme and a great victory for capitalism. But in the history of human civilization mobthink doesn’t have an impressive track record: the masses re-elected Bush to a second term, nailed Jesus to a cross, and wore bell-bottom pants.